Chasing A James Beard Award Winner Around New Orleans (Part 1)

by joeheg

It’s difficult to eat in New Orleans and not find a James Beard award nominee. It only takes a little effort to eat at an award-winning restaurant.

In my opinion, my best meal in New Orleans during our last visit was at the multi-award-winning Commander’s Palace. However, that wasn’t our only amazing meal during the trip; it was only one of them. Each of them had its good points and it was hard to pick one to be the best.

While I picked that restaurant, another one was a matter of necessity and not a choice. We were meeting with my best friend from college and looking for somewhere to eat on a Monday evening and didn’t realize that many of the New Orleans restaurants are closed that day. We looked at many places and where we almost threw in the towel, he mentioned that Herbsaint was open.

Herbsaint is the flagship of the Link Restaurant Group, headed by chef Donald Link. The restaurant won the James Beard award in 2007 for Best Chef South. We were already planning on heading to another of his award-winning restaurants during the trip (more on that in another post) but why not see where it all started.

a poster on a wall

Life being as it is, my friend was not able to join us for dinner. I apologized to the restaurant staff about the change in plans and they were very understanding and moved us from a table of 6 to a table for 4. We only had to wait for a few minutes at the bar.

As we found with the James Beard award-winning restaurants, they’re not shy about showing off their awards.

a two framed awards with a medal and certificate

This was our first experience eating outside of the French Quarter and it was a revelation. While we’re big fans of getting out of the theme park area in Orlando to get good food, it turns out the same goes for other cities as well.

The menu wasn’t large but had plenty of high-quality dishes.

a menu on a table

I started with a bowl of gumbo. It was my first try at the New Orleans classic and this version was soupier than I was expecting.  It needed the rice to give it texture. It did come with a ton of flavor.

a bowl of soup on a table

For dinner, we tried several dishes. Sharon ordered the housemade spaghetti.

a plate of food on a plate

I ordered the Louisiana Jumbo Shrimp.

a plate of shrimp and rice

The winner of the night was our travel partner who ordered the Duck Leg Confit. After we all had a taste, we agreed that he won the best dish of the evening. (I didn’t ask if I could steal this photo from his Facebook feed but I’m sure he’s OK with it.)

a plate of food on a table

While the dessert menu looked tasty, we all were full of food and tired. All we wanted to do was get back to our Airbnb and sit and watch TV.

We also knew that we had another meal like this lined up for lunch the next day. Could Donald Link possibly top our dinner at Herbsaint? Stay tuned for how he did for our lunch at Cochon.

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1 comment

John B January 1, 2022 - 2:11 pm

Those Ida damaged floorboards we fixed that night that caused my cancellation came back up in a few weeks, but our awesome friend & contractor was able to fix them (hopefully for good) when he returned for part two of our repairs. Still sad we had to cancel as it would’ve been a first for us too. But hey, I get to work through our list of restaurants as part of daily life! BTW, pre covid I saw a statement from the city that said of you did the math, there were enough active restaurants in the city that one could eat out three meals a day for a year and not repeat. That’s a list.


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